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Rhonda J. Ferree


Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture



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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
Landscapes (Trees, Shrubs, and Flowers)
Horticulture Educator Rhonda Ferree's avatar

I Love Poppies!

As I wrote last week, I retire on October 1 after 30 years with University of Illinois Extension and am focusing my last couple columns on my favorite plants. Although I love many flowers, the poppy is probably my favorite. I am not sure why, but I have a fascination with poppies. I collect antique Hall China in the orange poppy pattern and have my kitchen decorated in poppies. There ar...

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Start Your Spring Bulb Display This Fall

Begin your spring flower display by planting bulbs this fall. It seems like a lot of work now, but after the long winter, you will really enjoy those blooms. In addition to the standards, such as tulips and daffodils, try some of the other small flowering bulbs. For example, anemones, snowdrops, and winter aconite all bloom very early and have especially beautiful flowers. Snowdrops are...

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Planting black tupelo tree

Fall is a Great Time to Plant Trees, Shrubs, and Bulbs

Fall is known for planting spring flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. According to Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, fall is also an excellent time to plant woody plants and some perennials. "Most plants prefer a particular season of the year to be moved," says Ferree. Deciduous plants are most easily transplanted in the fall after the...

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Cherry pie rose is a show-stopper in my garden! on 7-13-12
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The Incredible, Edible Rose

Roses are beautiful, but did you know that they are also edible? Rose flower petals and fruits (hips) add color, texture, scent, and flavor to various dishes and beverages. My go-to edible rose is the rugosa rose ( R. rugosa ). It is native to Asia but rarely escapes cultivation. This small to medium rounded shrub is primarily grown for its showy white, yellow, pink, or purple fl...

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Serviceberry…Beautiful Trees with Tasty Fruit

Serviceberries are beautiful native trees with tasty edible fruit. Recently I picked several fruits to eat with cereal and freeze for smoothies. Usually, the birds beat me to the fruit, but this year my tree has such a large crop that I was able to share. Serviceberry ( Amelanchier sp.), also called Juneberry, are native here. I often see them growing along streams and rivers. T...

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Visit a Public Garden this Summer

Public gardens are a great place to get ideas for your garden. Last month I visited three gardens in Rockford with Bradley University's OLLI program. I am inspired to add more plants to our water garden and create more succulent container gardens. Here are a few ideas of places you might consider visiting this summer. Some of my favorite garden locations are the Chicago Botanic Gardens,...

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Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum Pictum)

Ferns add texture to a shade garden

I love ferns. Ferns make areas greener and provide interesting texture. Let's look at a few that are commonly grown in home shade gardens. Hardy, outdoor ferns are easy to grow and are essential in the woodland garden. Ferns come in all shapes and sizes, but most require similar growing conditions. Nearly all ferns do best in dappled shade. Most ferns require a soil rich in organic matt...

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Hummingbird moth on honeysuckle vine on May 7, 2012
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A Tale of Two Honeysuckle Vines

Vines add vertical beauty to a garden. Fast growing honeysuckle vines are easy to grow. Their intoxicatingly wonderful floral fragrance attracts hummingbirds, bees, and hummingbird moths. The story of these two honeysuckle vines is a lesson in using native plants. The Japanese honeysuckle ( Lonicera japonica ) was brought here from East Asia because of its fragrant and beautiful...

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Dutchmans breeches and squirrel corn

Early Spring Wildflowers

I love exploring woods in the spring looking for wildflowers. They bring such joy after such a long winter. Here are a few of my favorite early spring wildflowers. One of the first woodland flowers to bloom is bloodroot ( Sanguinaria canadensis ). Bloodroot has a solitary white flower, with a golden-orange center that grows beside a lobed leaf. Roots and stems have a red-orange j...

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Energy Efficiency and Trees by Duane Friend

Energy costs have hit everyone hard! Certainly, there are many tips for conserving energy costs from programmable thermostats to lighting tips. One big influence on home energy costs is the home landscape. External air temperature, solar radiation, wind movement, and humidity influence your home. Proper use and placement of plants and structures can help modify these factors and thus re...

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Planting black tupelo tree

Purchasing Trees and Shrubs

It's that time of year when trees and shrubs begin popping up at retail sales areas throughout Illinois. Here are some tips to consider as you plan your new woody plant purchases. The most important choice is what type of plant to buy. Consider many factors when making this choice, as it is critical. Consider shade versus sun, soil conditions, insect and disease resistance, seasonal fea...

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2018 All-America Selection winners by Bruce Black

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Cutting Garden in Master Gardener Demonstration gardens at ICC in E. Peoria.
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Bring your garden indoors with cut flowers

I love having fresh flowers on my kitchen table. They bring such beauty, energy, and life to the room. Every spring I vow to bring fresh flowers indoors all season, but I never seem to follow through very well. Maybe I would do better if I had a cut flower garden dedicated specifically to this purpose. My colleague Candice Hart provides the following tips for creating a cut flower garden....

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Perennial plant of the year – Allium 'Millenium'

URBANA, Ill. – The Perennial Plant Association has awarded the title Perennial Plant of the Year 2018 to  Allium 'Millenium'. This herbaceous perennial, a relative of the common onion, is a workhorse of the late summer garden. Bred by Mark McDonough, horticulture researcher from Massachusetts, 'Millenium' was introduced through Plant Delights Nursery in 2000 where it has proven itself y...

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Karl Forester Miscanthus grass

Hardy Pampas Grass

After 30 years of being a horticulture educator with University of Illinois Extension the towering pampas grasses still amaze me each fall. What energy and power that plant must have to grow over 12 feet tall each summer, just to die back in the fall and start over again the next year. Also called plume grass, hardy pampas grass (Erianthus ravennae) is hardy in zones 5-...

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Pine Needle Drop

Parts of my backyard and woodland are covered with fallen pine needles. We have a large number of mature white pine trees that yearly drop their needles. Annual needle drop is normal and beneficial. Martha Smith, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension said it well, "There is really nothing to be concerned about," "What is happening is commonly called inner needle dr...

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Found at go.illinois.edu/ferreevideos

Water Mature Trees and Shrubs During Drought Periods

Most people assume that established trees and shrubs can handle drought conditions. Often this is true, but the severe weather extremes that we've had in recent years has depleted reserves and stressed many plants. Please don't ignore your older trees and shrubs. Mature woody landscape plants often do not exhibit symptoms from underwatering for several months; or, some cases it takes 3-...

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Watering bags work well for new trees.
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Reduce Tree Stress to Keep Them Healthy

The most common questions we get in our Extension offices are about trees. Unfortunately, most people do not notice their trees until they show major dieback or leaf drop. Often by the time we get the call, the tree has irreversible damage, and I have no magic formula to save it. The odd weather patterns the last past few years have left many trees stressed. Stressed trees are less able...

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Goldenrod

The goldenrod is making a fantastic display this fall in my prairie and other unmown areas. I love watching the waves of gold sway on a sunny fall day. Goldenrod (Solidago sp.) thrives in sun to part sun and is a deer-resistant perennial. There are thirty different types of goldenrod that grow in Illinois. They range from the three foot to seven foot tall. Each has a cl...

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Huge Hibiscus Flowers are a Garden Standout

Have you noticed the huge hibiscus blooms this summer? Hibiscus has magnificent flowers that make quite an impressive display each summer. There are many different types of hibiscus. The rose-of –Sharon ( Hybiscus syriacus ) is a popular shrub hibiscus. Herbaceous perennial hibiscuses are available in tropical and hardy forms. Tropical hibiscus ( Hibiscus rosa-sinens...

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A tall row of elephant ears grow against the front of Becky Poindexter's home at 1028 E Chestnut, winner of the September 2011 Bright Spot award.
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Gardening with Summer Bulbs

I'm growing several summer bulbs this year. These include cannas, caladium, and elephant ears. Summer bulbs are summer-blooming plants that have some type of underground storage structure, but most of them don't look like bulbs. The vast majority of summer bulbs are not cold hardy and will not survive our winters. They are often referred to as 'tender' bulbs. These plants need to be dug...

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Climbing rose on May 7, 2012.  Notice the carpet of petals forming below the plant.
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Heirloom Flowers Making a Comeback

Old-fashioned flowers and flowering shrubs like roses, hydrangeas, sweet pea, lilac, and more have always been common garden plants. Technically, an heirloom is defined as a plant that is open-pollinated. These are pollinated by insects, hummingbirds, or the wind and the resulting seed will produce plants that are identical (or very similar) to the parent plant. Heirlooms are popular fo...

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State champion Bald Cypress tree in Southern Illinois along Cache River basin. That is my husband Mark kayaking up to it. It is only accessible by watercraft. The tip of my yellow kayak is shown at the bottom of the pictures - among the duckweed and watermeal.
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Waterlogged Plants

Central Illinois continues to receive excessive spring rains, which have resulted in waterlogged soils and flooding. Rhonda Ferree, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, says "It is important to understand what is happening to plants growing in these conditions and what to expect later." Rhonda describes this as "a wait-and-see situation." Many herbaceous plants are experienci...

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Wool sower gall on white oak

Help, my Oak tree has weird bumps and growths!

We get lots of questions each year about abnormal growths on oak and other trees. These abnormal growths, called galls, can be very disturbing to the people whose plants are affected. Fortunately, most galls affect only the appearance of the trees and are not detrimental to plant health. Galls are a plant's response to insects, mites, bacteria, fungi, or nematodes. Galls are actually cr...

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Perennial Flower Garden Design

Have you ever seen a garden that just took your breath away? You visit two months later, and the garden is again in full glory, and you wonder how do people do it? How do you design a garden that offers visual interest through the seasons? Rhonda Ferree, Horticulture Educator with University of Illinois Extension, highlights University of Illinois Extension resources that will help you create y...

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